The Aestheticized Interview with Evelin Stermitz (Austria)

By Kisito Assangni - Sunday, March 15, 2020
The Aestheticized Interview with Evelin Stermitz (Austria)

Evelin Stermitz, M.A., M.Phil., studied Media and New Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and holds the degree in Philosophy from Media Studies. Her works in the field of media and new media art focus on post-structuralist feminist art practices.

Image: The Magic Mirror Sees Black and White, Video Still, Evelin Stermitz, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

 

Evelin Stermitz, M.A., M.Phil., studied Media and New Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and holds the degree in Philosophy from Media Studies. Her works in the field of media and new media art focus on post-structuralist feminist art practices. In 2008 she founded ArtFem.TV – Art and Feminism ITV (http://www.artfem.tv) and received a Special Mention for the project at the IX Festival Internacional de la Imagen, VI Muestra Monográfica de Media Art, University of Caldas, Manizales, Colombia, in 2010.

 

The Magic Mirror Sees Black and White, Video Still, Evelin Stermitz, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

 

Her works have been exhibited and screened at various venues such as the MMoMA Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russia / Vetlanda Museum, Sweden / Centro Nacional de las Artes, Mexico City / Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires, Argentina / PAN Palazzo delle Arti Napoli / CAM Casoria Contemporary Art Museum, Naples, Italy / Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, Serbia / Fundació Joan Miró and CCCB Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Spain / Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University, USA / MAC/VAL Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, France / Chelsea Art Museum, New York, USA / International Museum of Women, San Francisco, USA / Museo de las Mujeres, San José, Costa Rica.

 

ArtDependence (AD): Do you have any thoughts on whether that’s a responsibility of artists, reflecting our time is important within the political context?

 

Evelin Stermitz (ES): In my opinion, critical current artists always reflect their societal time and its politics, but I would not see it as an obligation to create art out of newspaper issues. An artist is not obliged to react on certain crisis, there can be also other important issues to tackle that are more sublime than the public discourse and hidden in daily news. This is the more important task – to raise awareness on hidden agenda. And it depends further on the articulated reaction of the artist on certain issues.

For example artist Vahit Tuna stages in an installation the hidden agenda of domestic violence through 440 black high heels on a giant wall in Istanbul, Turkey.Through this the artist is able to spur a public discourse that brings this issue back into media and its politics of a misogynist society. The sublime notion is that black high heels serve as an oppressive male fetishization object on women’s legs and at the same time in this installation also as the pair of shoes that traditionally is put in front of the door when someone passes away.

David Černý, for example, created sculptures of babies whereby each object has the face replaced through a barcode sign. The artist spurred the discourse about the measurable body, lost individuality, child trafficking, reproduction industry, international surrogacy trade, and other.

Video artist Pipilotti Rist installed a public swimming pool colorful coral-like to denounce the disappearance of corals.

Further, many feminist women artists are politically engaged in the change of imbalances of women in a still male dominated society through art and activism in their public and private life as a humanist vision.

AD: What is your main interest as artist? What form of self-consciousness is applicable to the art-making?

ES: I am not so much interested in the so called ‘art-making’ from 9 to 5 … Or having a big team around like assistants who pre-paint your canvas. In my opinion, art has to originate from the author only, must be unique and not a copy of a copy of a copy. I am interested in conceptual works as well as to leave room for experiments and coincidences. The ‘art-making’ is a process and not a ‘to-do-list’. It is exploration and reflection of the self as a subject as well as exploration of influential processes, like reactions on surroundings of images and feminist literature, feminist philosophy.

 

The Magic Mirror Sees Black and White, Video Still, Evelin Stermitz, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

 

The artistic reflection occurs when the artist is open to ask what the influences are doing with one and what kind of meaning they are creating. And with this creation of meaning the ‘creative process’ begins, and this has nothing to do with simple ‘art-making’. Art is a process of thinking and reflection and later with doing.

The self-consciousness is in this process transferred to creating something anew, to transfer it into art, whereby the self-consciousness can get lost during this process. That means the person as artist loses importance, but the artwork is the relevant subject and object to deal with at the end, whereby the artist becomes just a physical person that intermediates the outcome.

AD: Do you feel that it’s important to convey your own beliefs and opinions within your art? Is there a philosophical element in your work?

ES: Not always! And actually not at all! Of course the artist expresses the own ideas, but only to some extent! What does ‘own belief and own opinion’ mean today? We are influenced in so many ways. A genuine self-expression is hard to find nowadays. I am not merely influenced by feminism and feminist ideas but also through media like anybody else.

I think the freedom of artistic self-expression is in the realm of images and not in the spoken word. The images have the power of genuine ideas, to unfold the unexpected, to express the non-spoken. The spoken word is determining, the picture is free!

So to say, the images are the philosophical element in my work. And to read those images is sometimes difficult too! People don’t learn to read images anymore. That is the side effect of the overflow of images nowadays.

 

Room Thoughts, Video Still, Evelin Stermitz, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

 

Another philosophical element could be the involvement of my own body in my video pieces, whereby I distance myself from the self and see myself as a figure, an object, a subject of art; so to say an estrangement from myself through performative elements, distanciation, defamiliarization from one’s own self.

AD: What are you currently working on? Is there anything in particular that you’d like to get across through your work?

ES: Currently I am working on various projects and in various media. I turned also to analog drawings, because my work was digital centred. But I am not talking about work in progress. For me, only finished work is matter of public discussion. I would say, a woman artist’s work is never done!

AD: What place does creativity have in education? Do you view yourself as a creator?

ES: Creativity is the source of thinking, of finding creative solutions for problems of our times. The time for art education is limited in public schools and in elementary education but should be raised. There was a study that creative people are needed in times of crisis even more, because they provide different non-conventional solutions and can add different ideas into think tanks. Educating a society without art is a shame for the entire generation!

Yes, I see myself as a creator when creating art, but rather in the aspect of being the author of the work.

AD: Do you think that by challenging conventional views, art can truly make a change in the public’s perception?

ES: Art can challenge conventional views, yes, raise awareness, and the artist’s work can also polarize to some degree. Conventional perceptions can be turned around, at least in some people’s minds. But, I am not sure, if a certain audience can be reached to turn their minds upside down.

AD: How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

ES: I began to work in photography and turned to the moving image later. The sole photograph was too quiet for me and not living, not moving, no sound, only the silence and the peacefulness. Of course there was the expression and iconology that had its own power, but later I preferred to see the moving image as a proceeding media to photography and to deal with new aspects of image correlations. Actually, since I always worked in photographic series rather than with single images, it was near that I began to deal with video art, as it is also a compilation of still images.

AD: Is sophistication, aesthetic accomplishment in the eye of the beholder?

ES: The aesthetic experience is subjective and individual, yes, but it can be influenced through the ideas of the creator. The spectator otherwise is influenced by own ideas, feelings, experiences, knowledge, own approach to interpret the visible other. It is a circle that can only be defined through both – the creator and the spectator, whereby the art piece is in between both …

 

The Magic Mirror Sees Black and White, Video Still, Evelin Stermitz, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

 

AD: What do you think is the social role of art? How would you like to be remembered?

ES: The social role of art is manifold! Hard to explain, it depends on the aim of the artist and on the work. Art as a project can unite, reunite, split up, empower …  At least, art renders visible important societal issues!

I see more and more that art history has its own writings on the artist’s works. Therefore the artist should interpret the own visions. In particular when reading women artists interpretations, there is much wrong prove against the original intentions of the artist that has been revealed only through current research and re-reading of the artist’s work. Art critics and theorists tend to have their own visions too and want to mingle them sometimes into false interpretations by losing objectivity!

I think, for me, I would love to be remembered through my critical feminist works and endeavours in this field of art! And without misinterpretation of a personal biography!

AD: How does art school form ideas about art? Does it shape people into being certain types of artists?

ES: It depends on the teacher! If the teacher or mentor leaves freedom for the personal development of the student, then the student can develop the own intention about art. But at certain art schools, all student paintings look alike. There are some basics in art education and theory, but the personal development of the student should be foregrounded! But of course, art schools can be influencer and have impact on the future generation of artists! In particular, when art is seen as a national achievement, it can become difficult and problematic.

AD: What do you think about the art world and art market? Do you accept that art is inherently an elitist activity?

ES: The art world and the art market are male centred. Male structures rule deep inside the art world, through this male visions are dominant that have roots in an old art history. Besides this, the art market is focused on buyers of an elitist high-income class. There are hypes and the focus of art is not art itself anymore. I have to accept that art is an elitist activity within certain circles. But nevertheless, I am creating art for my own circles.

 

From the Life of My Old Woman Friend, Video Still, Evelin Stermitz, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

 

AD: What’s the last great book you read? Any other thoughts/projects to share?

ES: I read books by female authors and feminist literature, books about women artists. One of the latest books was a book from the year 1894 by Wilhelmine Heimburg, one of the rare female authors of that time, since it was not common for women to publish. The novel was so intriguing that I created a video piece out of it. The story is still current nowadays, and the video is entitled like the book ‘From the Life of My Old Woman Friend’. The book was not inherently feminist, but I took for the video piece some ideas of the book illustration images that were referring to the situation of women still nowadays.

Another book that I recently discovered discussed the influence of capitalism on women’s lifes in a feminist perspective, but I cannot go deeper in this interview.

Further, a while ago, through an involved exhibition concept, I found the once banned book ‘The Three Marias – New Portuguese Letters’ in a used bookstore and ordered it online! The book has been written by three women in 1972 where feminist writing was still a scandal, had to be censored, and all the three authors were arrested!

 

 

 

 

Kisito Assangni is a Togolese-French curator, art consultant, and farmer who studied museology at Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Currently living between UK, France and Togo, his research focuses primarily on psychogeography and the cultural impact of globalisation. He investigates the modes of cultural production that combine theory and practice. He inherently aims at going beyond the usual relations between artist, curator, institution, audience, and artwork in order to engage audiences in encounters with art that are unexpected, transformative, and fun. His discursive public programs and exhibitions have been shown internationally, including the Venice Biennale; ZKM Museum, Karlsruhe; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Centre of Contemporary Art, Glasgow; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Malmo Konsthall, Sweden; Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles; Es Baluard Museum of Art, Palma, Spain; National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Moscow; Marrakech Biennale among others. Assangni has participated in talks, seminars, and symposia at numerous institutions such as the British Museum, London; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; Ben Uri Museum, London; Pori Art Museum, Finland; Kunsthall 3.14, Bergen (Norway); Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial, Mali; Sala Rekalde Foundation, Bilbao; COP17 Summit, South Africa; Depart Foundation, Malibu (USA); Sint-Lukas University, Brussels; Motorenhalle Centre of Contemporary Art, Dresden (Germany); Kunsthalle Sao Paulo, Brazil; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Ticino, Switzerland. Assangni is the founder of TIME is Love Screening (International video art program) and art advisor for Latrobe Regional Gallery in Victoria, Australia.

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